It’s time once again to take a look at the state of Media Nation and share the most-read posts of the past year. It’s a little complicated this year — in late July, I moved the blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, and the numbers for January through July look different when compared to August through December. It seems to be an apples-and-oranges problem, but I can’t put my finger on it. Given that, I’m going to list the top five for the first seven months and the top five for the last five months. Presumably it will be easier to figure it out next year.
1. Andrea Estes has left the Globe following an error-riddled story about the MBTA (May 4). One of The Boston Globe’s top investigative reporters was fired after the paper erroneously reported that three top managers at the MBTA were living in distant locations when in fact they were in the Boston area. Six others really were working remotely. The Globe has still not disclosed what went wrong, and, by fall, Estes was working at the Plymouth Independent, a well-funded nonprofit with some prominent Globe alumni.
2. Liz Cheney for speaker (Jan. 3). With the dysfunctional House Republicans unable to agree on a speaker, I suggested that a bipartisan coalition turn to Cheney, a hard-right conservative who had nevertheless endeared herself to some Democrats with her service on the House committee that investigated the role played by Donald Trump and others in the failed insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.
3. An ombudsman could have explained what went wrong with the Globe’s MBTA story (April 28). Following a lengthy correction to Andrea Estes’ story about the MBTA, I urged that the Globe, as well as other news organizations, bring back the ombudsman’s position, something that nearly all news organizations had abandoned over the past 10 years. Sometimes called the public editor, the ombudsman’s role is to act as a reader advocate and look into problems with coverage, standards, tone and other matters.
4. Globe editor Nancy Barnes tells her staff she’s working to unravel the MBTA fiasco (May 4). We’re still waiting — although, to be fair, Estes’ decision to file a union grievance may make it difficult to go public with any information about what went wrong, and who was to blame, in that botched MBTA story.
5. Why the Internet Archive’s copyright battle is likely to come to a very bad end (March 21). We all love the Internet Archive. In my view, though, it’s heading down a very bad road, claiming the right to copy and lend books without first reaching a licensing agreement with the publishers, as every other library does. Early indications were that the courts would not look kindly upon the Archive’s arguments, and I doubt that’s going to change. There are many negative observations I could make about copyright law, but it is the law.
1. The late Matthew Stuart’s lawyer blasts the Globe (Dec. 6). After The Boston Globe published its massive overview of the 1989 Carol Stuart case, Nancy Gertner, who had been the late Matthew Stuart’s lawyer, took to GBH Radio (89.7 FM) and blasted the Globe for suggesting that Matthew may have been directly involved in fatal shooting Carol Stuart, the wounding of her husband, Charles Stuart, or both. (A brief synopsis: Charles Stuart, who had planned the murder, blamed the shootings on “a Black man,” turning the city upside-down for weeks, and then finally jumped to his death off the Tobin Bridge as police were moving in.) Several days after Gertner’s remarks, Globe columnist Adrian Walker, who worked closely on the project and narrated the accompanying podcast, appeared on GBH to defend the Globe’s reporting and assert that the paper did not draw any conclusions about Matthew Stuart’s role.
2. The Globe announces expanded regional coverage of Greater Boston (Sept. 6). The Boston Globe is among a tiny handful of regional newspapers that are growing and hiring — and the paper took another step in September by announcing more coverage in Cambridge, Somerville and the suburbs. The Globe already has bureaus in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Good news all around, although it’s no substitute for detailed coverage of local government, schools, development and the like. Some communities are now being well-covered by startup news outlets, most of them nonprofit; others, though, have little or nothing.
3. A devastating portrayal of Elon Musk raises serious questions about capitalism run amok (Aug. 23). The world’s richest person was unavoidable in 2023, mainly for his destruction of Twitter, the plaything he bought the previous fall. Ronan Farrow, writing in The New Yorker, took a deep dive into Musk’s life and career, describing him as an out-of-control egomaniac with scant regard for safety at SpaceX and Tesla, his grandiosity fed by what may be his overindulgence in ketamine. Walter Isaacson’s biography of Musk got more attention, but Farrow delivered the goods.
4. More evidence that Woodrow Wilson was among our very worst presidents (Oct. 9, 2022). Why this post from 2022 popped up is a mystery to me, but it’s nevertheless heartening to see that Wilson’s reputation continues to disintegrate. I shared a New York Times review of a Wilson biography by Adam Hochschild. The reviewer, Thomas Meaney, wrote that the book deals mainly with Wilson’s “terror campaign against American radicals, dissidents, immigrants and workers makes the McCarthyism of the 1950s look almost subtle by comparison.” And lets not forget that Wilson was also a vicious racist.
5. Nobel winner weighs in on a shocking police raid against a newspaper: ‘It’s happening to you now’ (Aug. 12). One of several posts I wrote about a police raid of the offices of the Marion County Record in rural Kansas as well as the homes of the publisher and a city official. Publisher Eric Meyer’s mother, Joan Meyer, still involved in the paper at the age of 97, died the next day, apparently because of stress. “It’s happening to you now,” said Maria Ressa, the Filipino journalist who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous resistance to her own country’s authoritarian regime. The ostensible reason for the police department’s thug-like action involved supposedly confidential driver’s records belong to a local restaurateur; more likely, it involved the paper’s investigation of Police Chief Gideon Cody’s alleged misconduct at his previous job. Two months after the raid, Cody resigned.
This might be my final post of 2023. Thank you, as always, for reading. And I wish all of you health and happiness in the year ahead.